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The Radical Spirituality of Generation X, Part 5: Infinity Hymn

Other times I’ll use a mantra. I’ve only been meditating for a couple years, so I’m a beginner, but I’ve noticed some differences already, most notably in my creativity. The way I write songs, their content, and how I perform them has been changing right along with the way I’ve been changing as a person. Tonight, my creative and meditative dimensions are intermingling more deeply than usual.

As I lie trying to follow my breath and witness things with equanimity, something unusually compelling pops into my mind. It’s a song. A new song. What makes it so unique and intriguing is that it has appeared complete and instantaneously, right out of nowhere. As a songwriter, I know this moment is like hitting the artistic jackpot.

As a meditator, I know this moment may be a distraction which can yank my awareness out of hard-won focus. Conflicted this way, I run the same silent debate I’ve had a hundred times; should I break my focus to get up and write down this creative burst?

If I don’t, I may lose a special song. If I do, I feel like a bad meditator, a scatter-brain who meanders off the path whenever something beguiling appears. But then, part of me argues (or perhaps rationalizes), this song is about spiritual seeking. Rumi created thousands of poems while spinning in an ecstatic state. My lyrics may not compare to Rumi’s poems, but maybe it’s okay to explore a creative flow that comes during meditation.

Discernment is key: I can’t just jump up every time my brain generates an idea while I’m meditating. But this song feels like it came through my brain, not from my brain. This sort of creativity is new to me, but my intuition tells me I won’t be spiritually AWOL if I get up to write down the song. So, I do. It is simply this:

It was easy
when I thought I had to go somewhere
to find You
now I learn
that I must attend to my own funeral
while this body still works
so that You may look through these eyes
and draw breath through this nose
and reach with these fingers
and pulse with this heart
who am I
to keep You from Your house?

When these words appear, they are without music. But, as I write them down in my dream journal next to the bed, a melody arrives too. There it is, a new song, but I feel as if I haven’t done any writing.

It’s more as if by meditating I created an internal setting that precipitated the creative burst. Later, I write more lyrics to it, to "finish" it (with a discerning artistic eye?), and then give it to my Sufi teacher. Without knowing any history of which lyrics were written when, my teacher circles the original lyrics that came in meditation and writes the comment "wonderful.” He also underlines exactly my later additions and writes "Is this material necessary?"

Reading his comments, I burst out laughing. Caught red handed! Over time, I’ve started to get the hint that in some cases my most important job as a songwriter is not to write, but to learn to open an inner space for things to come through, and then to know when I shouldn’t meddle with the results. I can’t say precisely where or what such lyrics emerge from, but I think it’s safe to rule out the ego.

I can sense where a song comes from by what part of me is moved when I write and play it. The above song is about the ego lying down so that something greater can move in. It appeared when I was in a more open, aware state, and when I play it I feel a softening and expanding take place within me.

These are all good indicators that its genesis was from somewhere beyond the ego. I can check any of my songs in this way and trace their roots. I have lots of songs that I know come from my intellect, emotions, or wit because that part of me was buzzing when I wrote them, and the same part is gratified in playing them. The smart-ass in me gets a kick out of writing something like:

Stephen’s exhibition is a masterpiece to see
it’s a series done in oil of his wife in bed with me
in really wild positions, all throughout his home
we cluttered every room with empty tubes of paint and foam
he’s done good work before, but this is closer to his heart
I’m glad that I could help out my friend Stephen with his art

But such a song never comes out of a meditative state. Work like that comes out of my brain, and takes a lot of thinking to write. For a long time thinking and egoic emoting was the only way I created, but meditation has brought more to the way I write songs, what they’re about, and how I perform them. Although having a song appear completely finished is still a rare event, it has become very common for me to write songs with tools other than just my brain.

Many of my creative blocks are now resolved by meditating for a while and stilling the thinking part of my mind. Whereas I once would sit for days on end pulling out my hair (most people still think I shaved my head) trying to come up with the next witty, intellectual zinger for one of my verses, now when I become blocked I often choose to lay back and focus on my breath and open up inner space.

I still write songs using my intellect, but it’s no longer the only way I write. Of course, blending creativity and meditation doesn’t mean that whenever I meditate I get a song out of it, or that God is writing songs for me and then dropping them in whenever I open up enough. But I think it does mean that I have access to parts of my "self" that run much deeper than my intellect, and that those dimensions can be every bit as active in the creative process as my brain has been.

For me, this means developing intimacy with Spirit, and when the intimacy is there (even a little bit), it has a great deal of influence on my creativity. There are artistic drives present in the sub-conscious, conscious, and super-conscious awareness, and meditation enables my creativity to move more freely among all three. Exploring this new creative terrain not only changes where my songs can come from, but what they’re about.

And is this my beautiful house?

When I took up esoteric spiritual practices, it was because of an ache that was tough to describe, but unmistakably real. I felt a need for closeness with God, through something more than just beliefs.

Reading or hearing people talk about God just made me sick, like I was being shown pictures of food to treat my starvation. What did seem to help was prayer/meditation, and my creativity. In retrospect I think that my art was a mystical ‘start-up kit.’ In fact, all the time that religion was empty for me, art kept my soul going. I started using songs to help create a closeness with Spirit.

The Sufis say that if you take one step toward God, God comes running toward you. Soon after I started exploring my spirituality through songs, that became the only thing I could write about. It went from me wanting to take a closer look at spirituality to me looking at everything from a spiritual perspective.

Opening a different kind of awareness in prayer and meditation carried over into and colored the rest of my life. Everything from sleep, sex, eating, driving, watching t.v., and especially songwriting looked and felt different. And if I wrote a song about sleep, sex, eating, or whatever- Spirit would show up in there every time. I would write a song about a cowboy, and it would come out like this:

They say I’m how the West was won
that’s a God-dammed myth
the West is what I’m One with

I’d write a song about sex and it would end up like this:

Every body wants to taste
a little something carbon-based
sex is proof the Holy Ghost
crawls around in stuff that’s gross

If I tried to go for the opposite and write about the Devil, I ended up with this:

God is Spirit
Spirit is everything
even the Devil


Right now they’re building Gandhis
they’re gonna bomb our ass with Love
and bring us to our knees
just using what we’re made of

Even when I didn’t want to write songs about Spirit, I would end up writing songs about how I didn’t want to write songs about Spirit:

What I refuse
You will use to surround me
I spit out Your seeds
and You grow all around me
even my poison flowers in You

Since then I’ve been getting what I’ve asked for, which is simply some One awakening in my heart, which changes my inner and outer worlds. It doesn’t mean that I’ve magically had all my faults removed.

Far from it. I still have all the same laziness, lust, greed, arrogance, fear, and on and on. But the difference is that now there’s something Else present in addition to all those things. I’m able to witness, to observe those aspects from a place that both acknowledges their reality and their impermanence.

Very slowly, my sense of identity is moving into that place, where "I" am the awareness of the stuff that comes and goes, but ultimately, I’m not the stuff that comes and goes. My personality is finite and impermanent, but my awareness does not have to be finite and impermanent. Songwriting is one way I can move into that witness, one way I can observe the qualities without clutching them. The old baggage is still there, but my relationship to it is changing. My relationship to everything is changing, including how I approach giving concerts.

Live from Buddhakhan….

Because I can get stressed out before a show, I often hide in the green room (when there is one) and meditate or repeat a mantra before I go on. On one tour I started repeating the words to a song I had recently written like they were a mantra:

stretch this thread into Your loom
pick this rose to scent Your room
boil this leaf to make Your tea
boil me
mold the bones that form this face
break the dam that holds Your grace
burn a wick so Light can be
burn me

The message was simply offering all parts of my self in hopes that God would reinvent them. It worked. It worked a little too well. Because when I did go onstage, I found myself no longer able to automatically slip into my "entertainer" stage persona, and if I did, another part of me was observing it for what it really was: vanity.

From this new perspective, I could see how my ego craved to get up and be the center of attention, and how shows could often just be a vehicle for the gratification of ‘me! me! me!’. As the tour went on, I started to become less and less fulfilled by doing shows where I was mostly being smart, witty, shocking, or entertaining. I needed something more out of it.

A tension formed between my inner world, where I had been seeking closeness with Spirit, and my outer world, where I was still the outrageous performer. I was writing tender songs about God in private, and then doing shows where I would fall right into my old routines of being the guy with the big brain and crazy antics. I began feeling untrue, being touched by Spirit in meditation and writing, and then getting on stage and forgetting all about it. I was trying to have my metaphysical cake and eat it too. But those tidy compartments were starting to merge, and boy did my ego piss and moan when it realized that its free ride was about to end.

Over one hundred times a year for seven years I have gathered with strangers who offer their attention for over an hour. Only now have I started consciously asking, what do I want to do with that attention?

For much of my performing life my ego has soaked it up like the sponge that it is. But, just as meditation has taught me that sometimes my job as a songwriter is to create a space, and not to fill one, it has also shown me that my role as a performing artist includes putting people’s focus on things beyond just the performance. Nothing else can be the center of attention as long as my personality is inflated like a big balloon on stage. But if I deflate it from time to time, some beautiful surprises can then arise.

There is a place for both actually, the balloon of my personality and the space for something more. Both can be part of the same evening. It isn’t a matter of either/or, the ego vs. the soul, it’s more about knowing how to coordinate them so that they work together.

And they can work in harmony. In fact, ego is actually an asset in increasing the depth of a show. It can be crucial set-up tool. For instance, I use entertaining or accessible material as breathing space between songs with deeper messages, so that the evening keeps moving through different layers. And I often find humor to be an ally when sneaking into a delicate subject.

Knowing how to pace this dance, where personality grabs people’s attention and then steps aside to make space for something greater, is a skill I’m still learning. Of course, sometimes it’s impossible to get beyond the surface, but that’s almost always because everyone in the audience is drunk. Then I either stay on the surface or annoy the hell out of a hundred drunks with songs about spiritual intimacy. Trust me, that can be dangerous in some parts of America.

Even when an audience is amenable to going deeper, it’s still the hardest part of my practice to resist playing on the surface where there’s an easy pay off for just being entertaining. It’s tough to surrender the show to the Heart when it’s so safe and fun to stay in the brain. But frolicking in the brain all night gives me a metaphysical hangover after the show, and those are even harder to deal with than surrender is.

Luckily, if I say a mantra long enough, it keeps going even when I’m not trying to repeat it, and that reminds me during a show that I should be steering things toward the Heart from time to time. One thing is for sure: if I don’t surrender and open up, the audience won’t either.

Being a performer is like being a tuning fork. I try to get people to vibrate at the same frequency for a while. When I’m able to become totally un-self conscious playing certain songs, the audience sometimes opens up in similar ways. People’s boundaries will drop from time to time during a show, without them even realizing it’s happening.

The best part of giving concerts is simply being in a room when this happens, and right out of nowhere (again!) a bunch of strangers suddenly all forget their "selves" and fall into a shared, contemplative stillness. It doesn’t happen all that often, but often enough to keep me waiting for the next time.

That’s what I always wanted church to be like; unacquainted people letting down their walls and connecting through what is common to them all- Spirit. Concerts are another kind of church, a setting that encourages raising the consciousness of a group of people through inner and outer activity. A perfect blend of the exoteric and esoteric.

While I know that greater awareness is available to me all times, the reality is that I’m only able tap into it intermittently. My hope is to find ‘on’ more often and have ‘off’ become more infrequent. I also realize that the way meditation has changed my songwriting and performing is really just a happy byproduct of the real blessing, which is being more aware of Spirit. The Heart is the gem, and art is the play of Light shining through it.

On tour a few weeks before I wrote this, I was meditating before a show. I had a very strong notion pop out of nowhere that said I should change the way I perform one of my new songs, Infinity Hymn. Typically I play it like I do all my other songs, just me and my guitar. But this impulse said to change it so the audience had the most important role.

The song uses a single note to represent the presence of Unity throughout all manifest and unmanifest reality. Normally, I sing a verse, then sum up its message by simply humming one note, the note that stands for God. But instead, on that night, I changed it so the audience and I sang together after every verse, so that each of us were in the role of God. With a couple hundred voices humming the same note in one room, I was reminded how each of us really is God, that our essence is that unifying hum from which all else issues.

Every atom plays the hymn
every echo is from within
every eardrum makes a map
and it sounds like this when one hand claps:

(audience hums the note in unison- hmmmmmmmm)

* * * *
Stuart is a performing songwriter with international recognition and ten albums to his credit, including Bright Apocalypse, Kid Mystic, Nomen est Numen, and 16 Nudes. He tours extensively, doing more than 100 shows each year. (www.stuartdavis.com)

If you would like to purchase the Radical Spirit book from which this essay was drawn, please email us at manage@universespirit.org and we will email you back details.

About every two weeks we will post another article on generation X spirituality from the book Radical Spirit.. For more articles and more about Evolution spirituality and who we are, go to integrativespirituality.org .


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